Wildfire. Even the mention of word sends chills down the spine! While safety for residents and containment are the clear priority for officials, wine enthusiasts worldwide are worried about the effect of sediment left behind from the bellows of smoke rolling through our beloved vines. According to KOFY-TV in San Francisco, a number of vineyards have already sent grapes to laboratories in order to determine if smoke has affected the product. This year has already seen more than 1,500 wildfires than is typical in the state through the end of July, according to Cal Fire. More than 68,000 acres of forest were ablaze in the Rocky fire alone. Andy Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Vineyards says that current wind conditions are benefiting vineyards as the smoke is heading east and away from grapes, but that could change at any time. “It really depends on where the grapes are located and the state of the grapes,” he said on Wednesday, adding that a majority of red grapes are in a hardened state at the moment, but as they begin to soften toward the end of the month, this will make them more susceptible to smoke.
With these fires still out of control and spreading through Sonoma’s forest land, images of Chateau Montelena, Rodney strong, Kendal Jackson spring into my mind. The loss of harvest for this season could be catastrophic.
Butte and Valley fires have moved through parts of Northern California’s wine country just as winemakers are in the midst of 2015’s grape harvest. According to the Lake County Winegrape Commission, an estimated 15 percent of the area’s vineyards have been scorched by the Valley fire, or about 1,300 acres. The extent of damage from the Butte fire is still being assessed in Calaveras County, home to 900 acres of vineyards. The fires have affected parts of Napa, Sonoma and Amador counties as well. Dozens of wineries and vineyards are inaccessible due to the fire, and more than 5,000 buildings are without power, bringing harvest to a halt in the emerging wine region due north of Napa, where Howell Mountain and its prized Cabernet vineyards have already been evacuated. With a southern weather system bringing much needed rain from Alaska on Wednesday, hopefully, we will get some relief.